What we need is a Theory of Relativity for belief, which would show:

— that each person is relative, a product of time and place, influenced by parents and peers, living under the influence of all manner of things.

— that the ideas and practices available to any individual spring from a specific time and place:

  • that you could not be a Jew before Abraham and Moses;
  • that you could not be a Christian before Jesus and Paul;
  • that you could not be a Muslim before Muhammad;
  • that you could not be a Protestant before Martin Luther;
  • that you could not be a Mormon before Joseph Smith heard voices tell him that all people were believing in “wrong doctrines”;
  • that you could not be a “clean-eating, Sabbath-keeping Kosher Christian” before Herbert W. Armstrong gave up advertising for theology;
  • that you could not be an Emersonian, a Darwinist, a Nietzschean or a Freudian before Emerson, Darwin, Nietzsche or Freud rocked the world with their ideas;

  • that you could not be a logician or a scientist before logic and science were formalized as systems of thought.
  • that you could not be any of these things until you heard or learned about them, that belief starts with information, which is particular to a time and place.

— that “God” must always be in quotes because whomever says the word uses it relative to some set of beliefs and practices embraced by only a fraction of humanity.

— that once we accept ideas and practices as absolute it’s almost impossible to reverse the process. The conditional, parochial and relative nature of ideas and practices disappear behind feelings of empowering, inspiring certainty, which become almost impossible to give up. In other words, hopes, dreams and fears build up around ideas and practices to such a towering degree that people would rather die than imagine other explanations or ways of living.

Therefore, we need a way of understanding that people are relative, that to the best of our knowledge all ideas and practices are relative, that holy scriptures are relative, that highly elaborated systems of belief are relative, that the many definitions of “God” are relative, that practices and methods are relative, that even “absolute truth” is relative, and that the only thing constant — for most of humanity — are feelings of certainty that arise as cherished ideas and practices assume a central role in their lives.


©jonfobes 2005